At least 13 dead after bombing in Pakistan
Taliban faction claims responsibility following attack during a protest rally in Lahore
Police and security officers cordon off the area of a deadly bombing, in Lahore, Pakistan. Photograph: KM Chaudhry/AP Photo
Pakistani policemen and volunteers move an injured victim of a bomb attack in Lahore. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
An explosion near the Punjab provincial assembly in the Pakistani city of Lahore killed at least 13 people and wounded nearly 60 on Monday, a local emergency rescue service has said.
The blast ripped through a crowd of hundreds of pharmacists, who were protesting over new amendments to a law governing drug sales.
Six police officers, including a former provincial counterterrorism chief, were among those killed, local police said.
Police initially said the attacker was on a motorbike, but provincial minister for law Rana Sanaullah later said that closed-circuit footage revealed the bomber was on foot.
“Apparently it was a suicide blast, but police are still investigating to know the exact nature of blast,” said Punjab police spokesman Nayab Haider.
A spokesman for Jamaat-ur-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, called Reuters and claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
The militant group also warned that the Lahore attack was the start of a new campaign against government departments.
“You are on our target across the country,” it said in a statement.
Jamaat-ur-Ahrar also claimed responsibility for an Easter Day bombing in Lahore last year that killed more than 70 people in a public park.
Security in Pakistan has vastly improved in recent years, but Islamist groups such as the Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State still pose a threat and have carried out mass attacks.
Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif said the attacks will not weaken Pakistan’s resolve in the fight against militancy.
“We have fought this fight against the terrorists among us, and will continue to fight it until we liberate our people of this cancer, and avenge those who have laid down their lives for us,“ he said in a statement.
AP and Reuters